USA v. Howard Cotterman, No. 09-10139 (9th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Defendant moved to suppress the evidence discovered on his laptop and any "fruits" of that evidence when the laptop was confiscated at the United States-Mexico border. At issue was whether the search of a laptop that began at the border and ended two days later in a government forensic computer laboratory almost 170 miles away could still fall within the border search doctrine. The court held that the initial search and seizure of the laptop was justified by the government's broad sovereign authority to secure the country's borders and there was no basis to distinguish this case from prior jurisprudence simply because the complexity of defendant's computer necessitated its relocation to a forensic computer laboratory to allow the government to conduct an adequate search. The court also held that the duration of the deprivation satisfied the common-sense standards established in Montoya de Hernandez and that continuing the search by transporting the property did not amount to an unreasonable constitutional deprivation.